How to Safely Participate in Winter Sports During A Pandemic

December 9, 2020

During the pandemic, the safest place to be – aside from home – is outdoors. If you enjoy skiing, snowboarding or other cold-weather activities, you and your family should be able to enjoy yourselves this winter while limiting your risk of getting COVID-19.

“Ski resorts, ice skating rinks and other venues are operating differently during the pandemic,” says Elliot Frank, M.D., medical director of quality and outcomes at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and professor at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “You’ll probably have to plan your day differently than in the past.”

Most destinations are admitting fewer people than usual to keep crowds to a minimum, and they require people to purchase tickets ahead of time. Before you head out for a day of winter fun, do some online research first.

New rules of the mountain

You’ll also be asked to honor new rules while participating in winter sports. Whether you’re going skiing, snow tubing, snowboarding, ice skating or cross-country skiing, expect COVID-19 safety precautions at your destination. You should be required to:

  • make reservations online ahead of time, to eliminate lines and in-person interactions
  • fill out all paperwork and waivers ahead of time, either online or through an app
  • pickup passes at touchless kiosks or print at home
  • wear masks at all times, unless eating or drinking
  • wear gloves while participating in activities
  • stay six feet apart, which is natural for most winter sports… but be careful when getting equipment, waiting in lines, using restrooms or going to restaurants

Ski resorts, ice skating rinks, tubing facilities and other destinations are working to ensure greater safety for their employees and guests. When you visit, you should expect facilities to:

  • screen their employees for signs of illness, keeping anyone with symptoms from working
  • disinfect rental equipment between guests
  • disinfect restrooms, restaurants and high-touch surfaces (handrails, counters) more often than usual
  • have extra hand-sanitizer stations throughout the facility
  • have protective glass installed to separate guests and employees at equipment counters and restaurant counters
  • have benches spaced farther apart than usual, to allow social distancing while putting on gear
  • allow people to ride ski lifts by themselves, rather than with people from other households
  • offer grab-and-go food, with touchless payment options
  • have additional outdoor seating options for those who wish to dine outdoors
  • have heat lamps, fire pits or other ways to help you stay warm while outside

Other tips for a good time outdoors

To lower your risk of injury while skiing, snowboarding, tubing or skating:

  • warm up ahead of time
  • take breaks frequently
  • wear a helmet
  • stay within your limits; don’t attempt trails that are too difficult
  • avoid taking risks whenever possible

Other things to consider:

  • stay close to home, rather than traveling to a destination with higher COVID-19 numbers
  • don’t congregate in parking lots, where people may gather without masks on
  • considering bringing your own food, to avoid waiting in line with strangers
  • steer clear of crowds whenever possible
  • only ice skate in outdoor locations, if possible; indoor facilities may carry increased risk

“Even though skiing, skating and other winter activities will look and feel different this year, it’s important to follow the rules to ensure that everyone stays safe,” says Dr. Frank.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.